You’re listening to Having Fun With The Orchestra, a novelty cylinder recording from 1902. It’s an example of a burlesque…not the burlesque with dancing girls and feather boas and such. More outrageous than simple parody, burlesque was intended to mock conventions and genres by presenting serious subject matter with not-so-serious performance. And what better place than the usually-staid and straight-forward world of orchestral performance? Here’s Len Spencer from 1902.
Burlesque has been a part of theater, literature, and classical music since the early 16th century. Cervantes poked fun at medieval romance in many works; Stravinsky employed burlesque in 1916’s The Fox, and British pantomime (see “men dressed as women”) was a natural bedfellow.